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Yosemite Logistics

By Q.-Tuan Luong for The Yosemite Rock Page

This article covers frequently asked questions about travelling and staying in Yosemite, from a climber's point of view. See also hints on free-climbing and tips on big-wall climbing.

When to come ?

The best time to climb in the Valley is from mid-March to mid-May and Mid-September to mid-November.

Summer is too hot in the Valley. Lots of climbers go to higher elevations, like Tuolumne Meadows, or Lake Tahoe destinations. However the climbs in the shade and at higher locations (like Sentinel or Half-Dome) are then fine.

The winter is the wettest season, and might be too cold, although there might also be some very nice days with excellent conditions in the sun and no crowds. Basically conditions are quite impredictable during that season.

In April, the weather is still variable. There are chances of rain, and if you are unlucky, it can be wet (no more snow, though), but most likely the weather will be nice. In 1994, I spent two weeks in the Valley, and was never rained on.

Starting from approximatively mid May (of course there are exceptions to that), there is no more weather systems, and all you have to contend with is the occasional afternoon thunderstorm (and the heat).

How to get there ?

Fly in to one of the Bay Area airports (San Francisco, Oakland is good too), or, better to Fresno.

The best way would be to rent a car. Drive on freeway to Manteca, and then towards Sonora though Oakdale (this is the last place to stop for supermarkets) making a right a few miles before Sonora. From there you cannot get lost.

Public transportation is available to the Valley and in the Valley. In the Valley, no problem, there are free shuttle each half-hour or less. To the Valley is it s asort of nightmare but it can be done. I have never done that, so I am reusing information posted by Joseph Pullara, Scott Renger, Neal Weiss. Public transportation will take you a day to get there, and would be an option if you are staying for a long time, since you don't really need a car in the Valley.

Most public transportation to The Valley starts from Fresno, and you may be able to save some time (but probably not money) by taking an air shuttle from San Francisco to Fresno. Amtrak trains also run SF to Fresno, but Amtrak's connecting bus line to Yosemite seems to start in Merced, not Fresno. So the standard method would be:

  1. Shuttle bus from airport to BART station
  2. BART to Richmond BART station - which is also an Amtrack (train) station (Rob warns "It is worth noting at this station there are no staff, no time tables, well no information what so ever.  Please add this to your site, to stop other climbers making the same mistake we did.  In the end we where saved by UHaul!").
  3. Amtrack to Merced
  4. Amtrack bus service to the valley
Another possibility is to use Grayhound to Merced. The price Round Trip from San Francisco to Yosemite is $60. This train price is cheaper than the price of a round trip bus ticket from Greyhound. Oddly, one way on the train was nearly as much as the round trip. Also, be aware that that you CAN SIMPLY purchase a one way ticket from San Francisco to Yosemite, and make friends there.

Greyhound Bus Lines 1(800)231-2222 http://www.greyhound.com
Amtrak  1(800)USA-RAIL             http://www.amtrak.com

Where to stay

There are no motels in the Valley, or reasonnably close to it. To get in the Lodge during peak seasons, you need to call to reserve the very day of the opening. The tent village at Curry could be an option for a group, esp. in winter. Most likely you will end up camping. Some folks like "unofficial" campsites: clean, quiet, cheap (unless caught). The only places where you can legally stay overnight are the campgrounds, unless you have a backcountry permit or you are doing a big wall. The following information was posted by John R. Black: "If you're worried about getting caught and you want to play by the rules, I [John] have often done the following: find nice quiet clean site in an established CG (often the group sites under Washington Column are good), then ask nice- looking tourists if you can throw your bags in a 6'x6' piece of dirt in the corner of their site. I've never gotten a "no" on this."

Wherever you go be careful about bears. Don't leave food outside of bear-proof containers (your car is not necessarily bear-proof). On official camps, you'll find metal bear boxes.

Camp 4 is the cheaper ($3 per day) and most popular place with climbers. It is somewhat dusty, noisy, and crowded, especially during the summer. To get a site, you have to line up in the morning. It is a first-come, first-served campsite, which means that there are no reservations. You are not supposed to stay for more than one week (new limit I've heard) at Camp 4. This does not seem to be a problem in practice. Just say you stay for a week. Then the next week say you stay for a week but don't say you've been there before. "You can dodge the limit: move around, don't be an asshole, keep a low profile. I [John] had to hang for 2 months before getting on SAR. Don't stay in the boulders behind the SAR site: the rangers look there all the time." Alternatively, you could try to make reservations for a less popular campground such as Crane Flat or Hodgdon Meadow, which aren't in Yosemite Valley, but near it. Or... you could do the walk-in thing at Wawona campground. In any case, if you're going to try for a walk-in campground, get there *really* early. You might want to call 209-372-0302, the NPS campgrounds office for more information about the walk-in campgrounds.

"There is a secret place, shhhhh... don't tell anyone.... Take 140 to Yosemite, sometime after Midpines you'll notice a long downgrade, as you sense you're approaching the bottom of the this downgrade, start looking for the Merced River, it will appear all of a sudden in front of you as the downgrade bottoms out. On the left side of the road, you'll notice a stone building, (some form of tourist center related to geology). If you cross the bridge you've gone to far. You'll notice a small parking area just past this building. There is a dirt road just past the stone building, between it and the parking area. Hang a left and go down this dirt road. After about 100 yards, the road crosses the Merced over this old scary bridge, cross the bridge, veer left and just follow the Merced river. You're now travelling down the Merced away from Yosemite Valley. After about 1 or 2 miles on the left you'll see some very crude campsites. This is some obscure state campground, it's not on any map, and I've hardly ever seen anybody there. I've been there on a friday night in July, EVERY known campground anywhere near Yosemite was full, and this place was almost empty!!!! It's not very pretty, (considering how close you are to Yosemite), but it sounds perfect for your situation, especially with your trailer. You probably won't meet many climbers, they mostly tend to crash amongst the boulders when they can't find a real site, but I [Brad] think it's you best bet."


to the best of my knowledge there is no storage place. if you don't have a car and don't want to leave your stuff in a tent at sunnyside you can try to ask other climbers (esp. the people at the SAR site) to keep your excess gear, or also you can just try to hide it somewhere far from a trail.


There is only one climbing shop, in Curry Village. The prices are not significantly higher than elsewhere. They do carry the specialty items needed in the Valley (pitons, haulbags, portaledges, etc...) in addition to the regular gear, but the choice is somewhat limited, and they might be out of stock. If you need to buy a lot of gear, the best bet would be to stop in Berkeley, which has a few good stores (Marmot, REI, Wilderness Exchange).

For groceries, the best place is Yosemite Village.

Breakfasts can be had at the Cafeteria in Yosemite Lodge, but there is often a long line. There is an outdoor stand at Curry Village which serves decent food faster.

A pizza can be bought in Yosemite Village (closes early) and Curry Village.

I tried the new pasta restautant on the second floor, above Degnan's Deli in the Yosemite Village. Good and affordable.

At Yosemite Lodge, there is a "all you can eat" buffet, which is a good deal for hungry climbers.



It is a common practice to hook up with other climbers at camp 4. If you come by yourself for a stay during the climbing season you shouldn't have any problems to find a partner this way for any type of climbing, from short free climbs to big walls. Of course apply common sense by interviewing carefully and checking your new partner on easier objectives.

Another method is to use the net: contact members of local clubs, people listed in the various climbing directories, and people who seem familiar from postings on rec.climbing. This can be preferable if your stay is short so as to minimize the time loss (and also the locals would provide you with transporation).

If you're looking for instruction or a guide, contact the Yosemite Mountainering school (209-372-8344) which operates in the Valley.

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